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Jun 3, 2008 09:01 AM

Looking for good place to eat for Anniversary Michigan Ann Arbor/Novi area

Neither my wife or myself tend to like the really foofoo restaurants but we do enjoy good food. Price is not an issue. But we're looking for something a little laid back not dress up fancy. No kind of food is off limits. I've been reading other suggestions etc. I just wondered if anyone had a standout place they'd recommend.

Thank you,


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  1. Right now wife and I are really into Cafe Habana in Ann Arbor. The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and the place is certainly laid back, plus, as I've mentioned before, the mojitos are killer. And, I'm pretty sure the place is not "foofoo".

    5 Replies
    1. re: Summerfield

      Cafe Habana is definitely not foofoo, more of a hipster joint. I really can't say enough good things about them, their food is great. Try shrimp skewers and a volcanic mojito. Their chimichurri steak is also very good and a large portion. A really fun place to go.

      Prickly Pear on Main in Ann Arbor has good southwest food, interesting combinations of flavors and is not foofoo. Very laid back, you can dine out front or on the patio in back.

      Ajishin in Novi has great sushi and Japanese, no foofoo-ness there.

      The ultimate in non-foofoo is Knights in Ann Arbor. Smoky, wood paneled, vinyl booths, but the best steaks in A2.

      1. re: charlesbois

        Cafe Habana certainly comes up a lot I love Chimichurri as well so I am definitely thinking we might just go there. Ajishin I've seen and just not been inside yet (although from reviews I've read here I want to now).

        Thank you for the suggestions!


        1. re: charlesbois

          Yeah, but no sauces for the steaks at Knights. I'm really into sauces right now. But yes, the steaks are great, if a bit, uh, large. And definitely non-foofoo. I'm going to try prime rib next time. Incidentally, would anyone actually admit to liking a "foofoo" place? It doesn't sound like something you'd want to admit to.

          1. re: Summerfield

            I do like them when the time is right. But we have the kids being watched by my father n law and get up really early in the morning so we really don't get to make a whole night of it. Best we could manage was eating out (means I don't have to cook for once lol). Thanks for all the suggestions everyone now I have to make a decision.


        2. re: Summerfield

          I love Mojitos and Cafe Habana is one of the few AA places we've yet to try.

        3. For your anniversary, I would drive a few miles further and go to The Common Grill in Chelsea.By far the best restaurant in the area. Cafe Habana is good, but perhaps a little too laid back. You can most definetly wear jeans to Common Grill and have a truly memorable meal. Google them and check out their menu.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jerseyshore

            Agree that Common Grill is excellent and jeans-friendly. the one thing I would caution for an anniversary dinner, is it can get unbelievably loud at the Common Grill. Whereas I think the food at CG more than makes up for the decibel level, you might prefer a slightly more intimate booth at Habana. Let us know if ya'll want more recs for the Habana menu, I've sampled a fair few dishes there...

          2. I don't think I can recommend anything more up your alley than Diamond Jim Brady's Bistro. Sounds like it would be *perfect* for you.


            1. One place that occurs to me is Bella Ciao in downtown Ann Arbor. The only thing that stops me is that I haven't been for a few years. But I used to go quite frequently, and I remember it as classy and laid back, with excellent forward-looking Italian food. The U-M often takes visiting people there, and it has that kind of vibe. I wouldn't go in there in jeans and a T-shirt, but it's definitely not high-fashion. Service is great. Has anyone been there lately? Nothing put me off on going there; I just used to hang out with a more academic crowd, and these days it just doesn't seem to come up as a possibility as often.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jim M

                I went to Bella Ciao on my 16th bday, and 15 plus years later, the service and food have always been up and down. I was once served bacon wrapped shrimp that were raw, as in raw bacon and raw shrimp, which they took back and cooked, but didn't really seem to apologize for their error. But then again, I also have had there the best salad I've ever eaten.

                I would definitely NOT call Bella Ciao a "laid back place". I think it's kinda uptight, actually. And FWIW, there's pretty much no place in Ann Arbor that I've been to that I couldn't go to in jeans, although admittedly, I haven't been to the chop house...they'd probably deny me entry on the basis of denim...

              2. I've spent most of my time living in San Francisco, Madison, and Chicago, with a little Milwaukee thrown in here and there. My main complain about AA is how horrible the restaurants are, that is, until the Common Grill in Chelsea was recommended to me. That place is really, really great. It could easily survive in the snotty, dog-eat-dog San Francisco market, where everyone and their grandmother (including me) has a food blog.

                This Diamond Jim's place sounds interesting to me, thanks Boagman!

                9 Replies
                1. re: beardofbees

                  Oh, that's my pleasure, beardofbees. I'm sure that you'll find it well worth your time. Enjoy!

                  1. re: boagman

                    Hey, I just moved here myself, and have really exhausted the AA possibilities, but admittedly have not had the time to explore surrounding areas. Any other suggestions very welcome!!! I like all kinds of stuff. Foie gras AND dive long as it's not bland (lookin' at you Tuptim Thai curry tastin' like dirty dishwater mixed with coconut milk...)

                    1. re: beardofbees

                      Sidetracks Ypsilanti/ great burgers and bar food + atmosphere
                      Miller's Bar-Dearborn/ JUST burgers and fries, very old school, but worth the experience( this place made GQ magazine)
                      Angelo's- A2/ best breakfast in the area.
                      Zingerman's Deli and Roadhouse/ both worth the extra cost
                      Monahan's Seafood- Kerrytown(A2) 4 tables for lunch, great oysters and fresh seafood.
                      Bastone- Royal Oak/ unique Belgian spot, great food reasonably priced
                      Cafe Habana- Royal Oak & A2 funky spot,not a bad take on Cuban.
                      Common grill- chelsea/ nuff said
                      Diamond Jim Brady's- Novi/ stick to dinner
                      Things are so bad, I've resorted to PF Chang's for Asian, Mitchell's Seafood, and Fleming's Steakhouse, all in Livonia, next to each other for consistent, kinda know what you're getting when you walk in.

                      1. re: jerseyshore

                        Is the Cafe Habana in RO related to the A2 one or are they different? Work in RO so I've been to ever place in downtown RO (almost couple places aren't open for lunch). Tried Black Fin yesterday for lunch. Nice atmosphere be great to watch a game and have a beer but the food didn't impress me at all. The fries were Burger King fries. Why don't more places use real just cut potatoes for fries. They make the best fries.


                  2. re: beardofbees

                    I took boagman's rec of Diamond Jim's awhile back, and it was exceptional. I could not agree with you more about the horrible restaurant scene in A2 or metro Detroit for that matter.I'm from the east coast originally, just outside of Manhattan, so, I may be a little spoiled. If you're not good there, you don't stay open long. I will say this about Diamond Jim's, great entrees for dinner service, however went for lunch to try their '"burgers that made us famous" and was really disappointed. Really mediocre burger and fries,and again I'm a little more particular than most, but, I guess that's why there's a board like this. If you're going to charge $10 bucks for a burger and fries I feel it should be better than average. This thing tasted no different than any burger purchased at any random coney island. So, in short , avoid the burgers and stick to the entrees and you'll have a good meal. Oh yeah, the dining room will remind you of a crazy aunt who won't throw anything away

                    1. re: jerseyshore

                      Go to any one of the New York Metro boards. You'll find that there is plenty of bad food there from places that have some longetivity. Just sayin'...

                      1. re: Summerfield

                        fair enough, I might just be a little homesick

                        1. re: jerseyshore

                          Yeah, me too, sometimes. I'm from the other side of the Hudson from you (even though, technically, the Hudson doesn't actually flow down to the Jersey shore), right across from Tenafly. Incidentally, Tomatoes Apizza in Farmington Hills does a damn good New Haven style pie, and My Cousin's New York Pizza in Bloomfield Hills does a passable New York style pie.

                      2. re: jerseyshore

                        A place I enjoy quite a bit in A2 is Madras Masala . The food is great service is friendly and good as well. The dining room needs overhauled though. The carpet is so old nothing short of replacing it will make it look clean. The bathroom scared me when I first started going but since has been redone and is quite nice. That's the only place I frequent anymore with regularity. Shalimar when it was one restaurant and not two was better but since the split into two we didn't enjoy it as much.